17.10.2017 - 06:02
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Department of Primatology

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Deutscher Platz 6
04103 Leipzig

phone: +49 (341) 3550 - 200
fax: +49 (341) 3550 - 299

Jörg Hans

Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology
Department of Primatology
Deutscher Platz 6
D-04103 Leipzig, Germany

phone: +49 341 3550 251
email: joerg_hans@[>>> Please remove the brackets! <<<]eva.mpg.de


Molecules encoded by the major histocompatibility complex (MHC) genes play an important role in the defense against pathogens. Due to host-pathogen coevolution, MHC genes are rapidly evolving leading to species-specific patterns of intra- and interlocus variability. After chimpanzees and bonobos, gorillas are humans’ closest living relatives; but in contrast to humans and chimpanzees, much less is known about the structure and variation of MHC genes in gorillas. My project focuses on filling this gap utilizing state-of-the-art sequencing technologies.

In my first study, we explored diversity at the most variable part of MHC class II genes while simultaneously evaluating the feasibility of using gorilla fecal samples for high-throughput short-read sequencing (‘Illumina’). After controlling for multiple sources of error associated with the use of fecal samples, we were able to compare MHC variation between gorilla species, subspecies and populations showing that pronounced differences can be best explained by their different demographic histories.

In my second study, we combined long-range PCR amplifications and long-read sequencing technology (‘PacBio’) to analyze full-length gorilla MHC class I genes. By using high-quality DNA from 35 captive individuals, we obtained a total of 50 sequences, 19 of which have not been previously described. Furthermore, we identified two previously undetected MHC class I genes, thus substantially contributing to the understanding of MHC class I gene variation in gorillas. We showed that gorillas have a comparatively complex MHC class I haplotype structure but the overall diversity appears to be low.